de Coubertin, baron Pierre

Coubertin is known as the founder of the modern Olympics as he was instrumental in reviving the Olympic games of ancient Greece.

French pedagogue, historian and sportsman was born Pierre Fr├ędy on 1 January 1863, in Paris. He was a member of an aristocratic family who had a notable history of military and political service to France. His personal interests however were literature, sociology, and education. He toured Europe and the USA during his twenties to study the educational methods of other countries. He admired the British education system and tried to get France interested in improving its education by adopting a similar system.

It was also during this youthful years that he conceived the idea of reviving the Olympic Games, which had not taken place for almost 1,500 years. His interest was roused by recent archaeological finds at Olympia.

In 1892 Coubertin submitted his idea at a meeting of the Union des Sports Athletiques, a French athletic group that he had helped organize. Although his plan did not meet with great enthusiasm, he continued to lobby for an organized sports competition based on the model of the ancient Greeks.

On 23 June 1894 he encouraged the dignitaries at the Sorbonne in Paris, attending an international athletic conference to bring back the Games as a way to help ease world tensions. The delegates at what has come to be called the First Olympic Congress unanimously voted for the revival.

The congress formed a group to oversee the organization of the Olympic movement. This group later became known as the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Its procedures included restricting the games to amateurs (except for fencing), scheduling the first modern Olympiad for 1896. They selected Athens as the first host. Demetrius Vikelas from Greece was chosen as the first president of the IOC, and Coubertin held the position of secretary-general.

He saw the realization of his dream in April 1896 when athletes from 14 countries participated in the first modern Olympiad. In the same year he took over the presidency of the IOC, and held the office until 1925. The fact that the Olympics have continued as a regular event can be ascribed to Coubertin’s enthusiasm and diplomacy during the early years.

Perhaps the most illustrious quote linked with the Olympic games is universally referred to as “The Olympic Creed”. The words were articulated by Coubertin and appropriately describe the theme behind each and every Olympic competition.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

The Olympic Movement faced hard times when both the 1900 and 1904 games received little attention. It changed for the better after the 1906 Summer Olympics, and the Games grew to become the most important sports event.

For this great sportsman who met with a lot of success everything were not well in his personal life. He faced various problems in dealing with his son who was left mentally disabled by a stroke, which he suffered as an infant, his daughter who suffered from emotional disorders, and financial problems that he had near the end of his life. The latter was as a result of war, economic depression, and expenses from his various projects.

De Coubertin remained Honorary President of the IOC until he died of a heart attack while walking in a park in Geneva, Switzerland, on 2 September 1937. He was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland (the seat of the IOC), but in accordance with his will, his heart was sent to Greece to be put in a marble monument near the ruins of ancient Olympia